Mama Cutsworth aka Sarah Michaelson, is one of Winnipeg’s most well-known DJs, and she’s also one of the few women in the business.
“I used to complain like, ‘There’s never very many [female DJs] or they move away,’ and my partner said, ‘You should probably stop complaining and think of how you can change that,” said Michaelson.
So three years ago, she started a DJ academy specifically for women, and every year on International Women’s Day, holds a DJ “recital” or graduation dance party.
“Teaching DJing is a really new idea. I am self-taught, as are a lot of DJs,” said Michaelson, adding, “It’s been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done as a DJ.”
Michaelson has played all over North America, including a set on the side of a mountain in Whistler for the Paralympics in 2010, but she said getting into the business as a woman wasn’t easy.
“It was really hard starting out,” she said. “Sometimes people assumed I didn’t know anything about equipment … You would kind of get one or the other. People thought you were stupid or an object.”
So this year, for the third time, Michaelson and her 13 new protégés lead a dance party to celebrate women.
Lawyer trades cases for turntables
Meghan Menzies is a 27-year-old lawyer at the Public Interest Law Firm in Winnipeg – not the first person you’d expect to see spinning at a bar on Corydon on a Saturday night.
But after following Michaelson’s sets for years, Menzies decided it was time to get into the DJ booth herself.
Menzies and her classmates learned everything from beat matching to scratching, “the kind of stuff that goes on behind the table. I didn’t understand any of that was going on.”
Her parents even turned up from Morden with a handful of cousins and friends.
Her father, Bob Menzies, is a father of three daughters said he wasn’t at all surprised when he got the invite for the show.
“I kind of thought it was just Meghan again. She has different interesting ideas,” he said. “Mostly she’s just a lot of fun and kind of tagging along with her is a lot of fun.”
Her mom, Kathy Menzies, said she usually celebrates International Women’s Day in her home town at a fundraiser, but this year, she wanted to see her daughter on stage.
“I follow my daughters everywhere they go for their concerts,” she said, adding. “She’s warned me about some of the songs she’s chosen, so I guess we’ll see.”
After much hand-wringing, well-wishing and dancing to sets by DJ Erica and DJ Thunder Thighs, Menzies hit the stage, expertly mixing the Full House theme song with Snoop Dogg’s Smoke Weed Every Day and eventually Elvis’s A Little Less Conversation.
And alongside about 100 dancing supporters, hipsters, photographers and her classmates, her mom and dad took a little turn on the dance floor (there was no word on how they felt about Snoop Dogg’s lyrics).